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Pete Lyons' fantastic Can-Am Cars in Detail:
July/August 2011
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All news content copyright Michael J. Fuller, unless otherwise noted

Proposed 1993 Nissan NPT-938.22.11

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A clearly beaming Andy Borme greets us circa 1992 as he oversees the aerodynamic development of what would have been the 1993 Nissan GTP.  Borme joined Electamotive in May of 1989, "(I) was employee #39 I think."   Says Borme, "I was really hired to work on the 90 car with Chris (Willes) as work on that car was ramping up.  As a junior lad I ended up designing, under Trevor’s (Harris) direction of course, many of the chassis bits, bulkheads, door structure, roll hoop, beams, radiator, windshield washer, brake hats, etc., that made the car.  Tons of drawings to do with few people to do them..."

Nissan purchased the team in 1990 and Electramotive then became  Nissan Performance Technology, Inc. (NPTI).  And subsequently the organization began to expand.  At the height there would be upwards of 250 employees deployed across a 5 buidling "campus" that covered design, engineering, aerodynamics, manufacturing, engine development, you name it!  Name an American racing organization can do that now, much less in as technically advanced category as IMSA GTP was during its era?

With Dick Yagmi's departure from NPTI in late 1990, Borme was directed to take over the aero development of the 1991 car, "So this 26 year old new grad was given a windtunnel and two model makers and freedom to create.  Fantastic and frightening.  What do I do now!?"
Proposed 1993 Nissan NPT-93The propsed 1993 Nissaan IMSA GTP car started with the Nissan P35 as a general basis, though it very quickly evolved in a different direction.  Which is understandable given the very different cooling requirements for the proposed single turbo V6.  Going into the 1992 season it had become evident that the IMSA regulations favored the smaller capacity turbos and the matrix of downforce vs. weight vs. engine capacity seemed to show the way.  Toyota showed the way with its 2.1 liter, turbo 4-cylinder.  And throughout 1992 NPTI worked dillegently to rework the NPT-90 in order to shave weight out of the car.  In the end they found nearly 200 lbs of weight reduction, but ultimately the NPT-90 wasn't an optimized car.  Thus with the NPT-93 Nissan set out to design from scrach an optimized car.

Initially the Nissan P35’s tub and suspension were to be retained to form the basis for the NPT-93 chassis.  The idea was that the P35 tub would have been replaced by a purpose built unit incorporating a raised foot box to allow for a greater scope of front-end downforce generation.  Various areas of the car were to be beefed up and ultimately the NPT-93 would have weighed much more than the P35 basis given IMSA’s regulations.  The NPT-93 was to use the final single-turbo version of the Nissan GTP motor in place of the P35’s gutless V12.  A 6-speed gearbox, similar to the unit in the NPT-90 GTP car, would also have been used.  The engine’s single turbo was to have been located in the gearbox’s integral bellhousing with the starter motor just below the turbo and accessible via a hatch in the underfloor.

"With over 10,000 lbs of DF and an L/D of 6:1 we were all pretty excited to take it to the Toyotas.  We took all the lessons learned from the 90 car work and also found, and this is quite important, that moving the radiators away from the front and thereby having a clean nose section without holes gave a significant improvement in L/D.  In fact the nose shape was quite insensitive which is why I sculpted the curved shape for styling.  We introduced large front tunnels just inboard of the front wheels which exited behind the wheels in the large opening.  It had a permanent step in the floor to prevent porpoising.  We also found another large efficiency and downforce gain by raising the bodywork height in the middle and lowering it at the trailing edge leading to a very low mounted rear wing."

It has been said that at the peak Nissan was spending nearly $25 million a year (1992 dollars--$40-$60 million in today's money) on their GTP effort.  But the price of competing began to be a diminishing return for Nissan in the face of the amounts spent vs. the results.  The faltering Japanese economy didn’t improve the situation either.  As such the NPT-93 would never see the race track.  On March 29th 1993, NPTI closed its doors for good.

"We were a collection of very good people and it was a sad day when we were
disbanded.  I am still friends with many of the people who worked there.  Trevor came to visit me in Cologne, Germany last year.  Brian still lives in Indy.  I saw Chris Norris at the IMIS show and at Swift this year.  Peter Scott and I worked together again at Hogan Racing in 1999.  When many of us moved to Indycars, which was the other hot show in town, they were not happy to see us as we flooded the market with good people, bringing salaries down.  (It was) a time that will not soon be replicated."
Audi R8 book by Ian Wagstaff8.17.11

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Ian Wagstaff has written a new book on the Audi R8 as part of Veloce Publishing's "WSC Giants" series.  The book details the R8's success from R8R & R8C in 1999, to R8 and its final races in 2006.  The book covers all 80 races as well as individual chassis histories.  It also features profiles on all 35 drivers who raced an R8 in their career.  115 color and black & white images, 128 pages.  Release is set for next month and the book can be ordered through Veloce Publishing or Amazon.com.
TopGearAutosport.com is an online shop for performance parts & accessories, including headlights and tail lights
8.12.11

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IMSA has issued Competition Bulletin #11-19 that mandates an increase in the louver area over the front wheels, from 160 cm^2 to 260 cm^2 (an increase in area of about 60%), starting September 1 of this year.  11-19 also recommends louvers over the rear fenders (100 cm^2) though mandates them from January 1, 2012.  

Rear louvers were part of the initial Delta Motorsports yaw study conducted for the FIA, as far back as 2009.  The louvers help by reducing lift at the extents of the car's plan area.  And in general, it has been found that any device that does that, helps reduce the sensitivity to sudden-yaw induced blow overs.  Apparently interest has recently been renewed in their implementation following a test series conducted by Peugeot.   

7.26.11

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Last week Level 5 Racing announced a switch from their Lola LMP2s to HPD ARX-01gs, starting at Silverstone.  With the announcement of an -01g from Wirth Research, our efforts turned to determine what exactly a -01g is.  The press release gives the basics, the -01g is a cost capped -01d.  That means Level 5 will be able to run with more power, less weight (20 kgs less), and higher refueling flow rates, than the RML and Strakka -01ds as ACO rules have heavily penalize non-cost capped chassis'.    But Nick Wirth was surprisingly reticent to talk -01g details, "Not yet...." is all he would elaborate when asked.  

The exterior shape and the "hard bits" (engine, gearbox, tub, suspension, uprights, brakes, etc.)
of the -01g are identical to the non-cost capped -01d.  And some inquiring has determined at very least the -01g will have cast wheels and a reduced data system.  The cast wheels in deference to cost-cap regulations.  We also understand that some details will be simplified to reduce cost.  For example, the standard HPD utilizes two alternators (a primary and a backup) and the -01g will more than likely only have one.

On an aside, we noted that one ARX-01 marque had been skipped.  The ARX-01f.  When asked, Wirth did offer this, "A space in the designation cycle has been left for future P1 developments..."
7.24.11

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At the Lime Rock ALMS round, Speed TV's John Dagy's detailed some of the changes on the Dyson B09/86 Lola Mazdas.  These changes amount to upgrading the #16 to 2011 B11/80 long wheelbase specification.  There's quite a bit of difference in the rear aero between the two cars and we thought we'd have a look at that.

Lola-Mazda B09/86, Lime Rock 2011The #20 car's rear fender has the "standard" flowing fender line with brakes being cooled by the inlet in the sidepod.
Lola-Mazda B09/86, Lime Rock 2011The #16 car's rear fender has the updated, more chiseled look, and of course the scoop brake inlet. 
Lola-Mazda B09/86, Lime Rock 2011Here we can see the turbo intake periscope.  Note the inlet in the side pod.  This detail has been on the Lola P2 car since 2004.
Lola-Mazda B09/86, Lime Rock 2011On the #16 car's left hand side, the turbo intake is combined with the brake inlet.  The left hand side inlet is larger to account for this.  The sidepod inlet has been removed.  Here you can get a better idea of the chiseled rear fender leading edge shape.  This specific update was introduced early 2010 (1.13.10).

Lola-Mazda B09/86, Mosport 2011

A leading edge extension was added to the turbo/brake inlet at Mosport.
   
TopGearAutosport.com is an online shop for performance parts & accessories, including headlights and tail lights
7.19.11

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A rumor is making the rounds about the direction the ACO's 2014 regulations will take.  It is our understanding that a outline is being passed amongst the teams and manufacturers that proposes what effectively is a fuel energy content formula to start in 2014.  The proposal allots 1500 liters of gasoline, or alternate fuel equivalent (diesel, methanol, etc.), for Le Mans.  The energy content equivalency volume would be determined by the ACO.  For a historical reference, in 1990, Group C1 cars were alloted 2450 liters for Le Mans.  C2 cars were allowed 1650 liters.  But most interestingly, the 2014 proposal allows for the complete freeing up of the engine regulations.  But we can imagine the comparative draconian fuel allotment (compared to C1 in 1990) will drive engine capacities down not too far from what's being seen today.  Obviously hybrid technology would play right into this as well.

No mention is being made at the moment regarding chassis regulations.  

Audi R18, Goodwood 20117.9.11

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Audi's R18 made the necessary appearance at Goodwood this past weekend.  And from that we've received a shot of the cockpit showing the engine bay cooling intake in the face of the rear bulkhead of the monocoque.  It would be interesting to know where the opposite side intake is.  From the photos of the ducting routing through the engine bay, the ducts appear to be symmetrical about the car centerline, which would presumably put the driver side intake just above the right shoulder.
Audi R18, Goodwood 2011It would appear that the silver bullet fairing is a motorized fan to help draw airflow rearwards.
Mazda 787B, 20th Anniversary, Le Mans 2011>>By now you've perhaps seen the fantastic on-board video of Johnny Herbert's demonstration lap in the Mazda 787B at Le Mans for Mazda's 20th anniversary of their 1991 win?  If not, here it is again.  Watching the video prompted an email to the always helpful Mr. Pierre Dieudonne.  Mr. Dieudonne drove one of the sister 787Bs (#56) in 1991, co driving with Yojiro Terada and Takashi Yorino.

I was very curious how fast Herbert got the old 787B up to.  Watching him into the first chicane and the car is in top gear and approaching maximum revs.  Dieudonne caught up with Herbert following the Le Mans 20th outing and passed along, "Yes, I spoke with Johnny at the Nürburgring and he confirmed he was flat out on the Mulsanne, with plenty of revs!  Therefore, we can safely assume he was traveling over 300 km/h… Not bad for an old lady (I mean the 787B, not Johnny…"

Incidentally, the picture at right shows Mr. Dieudonne with fellow drivers Johnny Herbert, Yojiro Terada, and Dave Kennedy.  The gentleman in the framed picture is the late Mr. Takayoshi Ohashi, the Managing Director of the Mazdaspeed effort in 1991.  As Mr. Dieudonne lamented, "He really was a major key person in the whole story (I mean THE key person, in my opinion).  It also came as a real personal blow for me because he was the leading force of an important and long chapter of my own life and I had lots of respect for him."  Mr. Ohashi passed away in 2009.
TopGearAutosport.com is an online shop for performance parts & accessories, including headlights and tail lights
Porsche GT-98, Le Mans 19987.1.11

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The presumption has always been that with Audi's participation in LMP racing Porsche, also under the VAG umbrella, was forbidden to join the fray.  One only has to recall the canceled Porsche LMP2000.  And while it always "made sense" for Porsche to be involved at the top level, the reality has been for the past 13 years that they simply weren't.  Well that's all changed.  Yesterday Porsche announced(1 & 2) that they will return to Le Mans in 2014 in and LMP1.  

You'll note that 2014 coincides with time-tabled, though as yet still undefined (undefined for us, one can bet Porsche has certain assurances), regulation changes.  But one thing is certain, Porsche will be very keen to utilize their now emerging hybrid technology.  So in what definitive form Porsche's prototype challenger will emerge naturally will remain to be seen for some time.  We understand Porsche aerodynamicist Michael Pfadenhauer will have a hand in the new car.  File that under obvious...

Lacking further details, 
at the moment the most interesting question is where this will leave Audi in the future.  One wonders about the timing of Porsche's announcement given yesterday's FIA announcement regarding the future engine program for Formula One.  Is this the fruit of the FIA/ACO relationship blooming already only one month in, or paranoid delusions?  Porsche to Le Mans, Audi to F1?  Evidence suggests otherwise.  And Audi's own comments mirror this thought, "This is the decision of Porsche company, a decision in which Audi is not involved. Audi relishes the prospect of every strong new opponent at Le Mans."  We've added that last emphasis.  Could we see Audi and Porsche competing side by side at Le Mans in 2014, something denied for the past 13 years?  But perhaps the greater question begs, what's left for Audi to prove?
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©Copyright 2011, Michael J. Fuller